Teachers becoming harder to find in Lexington Two, statewide

Lexington School District Two is being hit hard by a shortage of teachers.

Angela Cooper, Lexington Two’s chief human resources officer, spoke about the teacher shortage at a school board meeting last month.

The number of teachers not coming back to teach is more than twice as high as the number of teachers being certified for the classroom, she said.

According to a report issued to the Lexington School District Two School Board, 4,074 teachers left the classroom in South Carolina in the 2015-16 school year. And just 1,954 college graduates completed a South Carolina teacher education program that school year.

Teacher shortage

The supply and demand for teachers has become out of whack in Lexington Two and elsewhere, officials say. (Photo by Terry Ward)

Those statistics come from the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention, and Advancement. According to data from the center, the trend of fewer teachers goes back to at least the 2012-13 school year.

“It’s getting tougher and tougher to find enough teachers,” Cooper said. “And it’s not just a local problem. It’s a statewide issue.”

Subject areas in which there is a dearth of teachers include math, special education, science, and foreign languages. Cooper said Lexington Two is not a critical district where teachers earn incentives to teach, but there are some jobs going unfilled. That has not happened in Lexington Two until last year.

Cooper said districts are able to hire back retired teachers but that there have been salary caps on those retired teachers, so the teachers have not been available for a whole school year.

Cooper and Smoak Lex 2

District officials Angela Cooper and Kevin Smoak are on the front lines in Lexington Two’s battle to recruit and retain teachers. (Photo by Terry Ward)

The shortage provides a degree of difficulty to the job of Kevin Smoak, Lexington Two’s coordinator for evaluation and effectiveness. He recruits teachers.

Smoak blankets the state looking for the next crop of talented educators. He goes to the large universities such as USC and Clemson, and smaller schools such as Claflin, Newberry, and S.C. State.

Lexington 2 also holds an annual education recruitment fair for teachers.

“That’s been very effective,” Smoak said.

He also said high school students are being recruited and that the district has a mentoring program that helps new teachers navigate their new profession. The district searched for diversity in its hiring practices, too, to help stem the shortage.

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